(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron pitched U.S. President Donald Trump on a plan to end the standoff over the Iran nuclear deal -- by allowing Iran to sell oil for a limited period of time in exchange for returning to talks and to compliance with the agreement.
The proposal was described by a French official after Macron and Trump sat down to an impromptu lunch that stretched for two hours at the Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France. A senior U.S. official termed the plan a non-starter.
The U.S. in the past has resisted any compromise that allowed Iran to resume selling oil, which is sharply restricted by U.S. sanctions. That’s why ending the impasse and putting the deal back together is so difficult: Iran’s No. 1 demand to come back to the bargaining table is that it be allowed to sell oil to help its struggling economy.
The French official described a plan that would occur in two phases. Iran would be allowed to sell some volume of its oil in exchange for a series of commitments: return to compliance with the existing agreement, find ways to lower tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a spate of tanker seizures, and return to structured talks on missiles, regional issues and what happens after 2025, when the current agreement is set to expire.
Read more: U.S. Thinks Macron Twisting G-7 to Hurt Trump, Win Favor at Home
The hope, this official said, is that this could create a de-escalation that allows the two sides to begin talking again, particularly knowing that both Trump and the Iranians have said they don’t want war. Macron met with an Iranian delegation on Friday, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to discuss this proposal.
Trump pulled out of the deal in May 2018, saying it didn’t do enough to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Iran remained in compliance with the deal for a time, but recently said it was enriching uranium at higher levels than allowed in the deal -- meaning it’s no longer in line with the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
Macron has led a European effort to find a compromise that would get Trump back to the table with the Iranians. One struggle has been finding incentives for Iran to renegotiate a deal that took effect so recently, this time surely at worse terms for Iran.
Salvaging the Iran nuclear accord is one of the key topics of the summit at this beach resort town, which sees Trump in his customary role as the outlier to the European nations that still think the deal can be saved. Another potential stumbling block to compromise in Biarritz: Trump brought with him national security adviser John Bolton, the leading Iran hawk in his administration.
To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org;Nick Wadhams in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ros Krasny
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